There are some pretty spectacular hiking spots in this world. The trails that hug the rugged coastline of the Italian Riveria between “The Five Lands”, as Cinque Terre is translated to, should be among the top. It was summertime when I walked/climbed my way along this route, but the views were so stunning it was worth every sweat drop.
We took a day trip from Florence to check out these five little towns we had heard so much about. We started off in Riomaggiore, the southern-most village on the trail. The stretch of basically concrete that connects Riomaggiore to the next village of Manarola is known as the “Via Dell’Amore“, or the Lover’s Walk. We strolled along this scenic sidewalk, stopping to take in the views, take photos, and absorb everything around us. We were under the first impression that this would be a leisurely stroll from city to city. It’s not…
We arrived into Manarola without expending too much energy. The towns are absolutely incredible. The buildings are all built into the cliffside, which is pretty cool for those of us from south Florida where everything is pretty much a flat wetland. All along the rocky coast there are swimming holes as well, filled with the crystal blue water and happy bathers escaping the heat.
So now we checked the second village off, it was time to move onto the third. Only now, the path was increasing in difficulty. And by that I mean in order to follow the marked trail we had to climb what looked like about 1,000 stairs to where the third village of Corniglia perched high, looking down on us now more weary and starting to become sweaty souls. The rule is what goes up, must be pretty worth it, so we started climbing. Turns out while this was the quietest town of the five, it boasted some of the best views, as well as a number of vineyards so fortunately planted to take full advantage of the fresh sea air.
By this time I was glad I wore proper walking shoes and not the sandals I had been sporting for the majority of my Italian outdoor activities (which consisted mostly of drinking wine on terraces). The stretch between Corniglia and Vernazza started to become more akin to mountain climbing in my opinion. We were not the only hikers we encountered who had to stop to take breaks, and we felt our lack of conditioning all the more keenly when a German family of four came barreling past us on the trail, each complete with a walking sticks in both hands… Vernazza was by far my favorite town, and the view (first photo in this post) hiking down to it from atop the hillside offered more than one perfect Kodak moment. It was here we made the cardinal mistake of stopping and taking a break to eat lunch. We didn’t quite get up the energy to hike again after that, but we were beautifully serenaded through our pause by a group of musicians stopping by each beach-side cafe.
We took a train for the final leg of the journey (there is a train that runs between all five towns). The fifth and final village was Monterosso Al Mare, and was the largest and most crowded. This would be where the majority of the beach-goers were, and getting a spot in the sand was pretty much impossible.
We had already inquired about staying the night in Vernazza, where the innkeeper not so kindly recommended that we “sleep on the beach” since we were only wanting to stay one night. We were discussing our options while sitting at the train station to go back to Florence when two other tourist such as ourselves overheard our conversation. They had rented an apartment in Monterosso, and were more than willing to offer us space to sleep there in order to reduce their cost and help us out. One of life’s divine moments of intervention!! We ended up hanging out with these two very awesome American girls who so kindly opened their doors to us, and had a fabulous one night on the Italian Riviera. Moral of this story: wear comfortable shoes anytime you could be walking any sort of distance, never forget water during the summer months, and don’t be afraid to make friends with other travelers. Sometimes it’s those chance meetings that provide the best memories.